'Tattoo, Tattoo. Stand by for the Evening Prayer'
EAST CHINA SEA (NNS) -- Sailors are provided an evening prayer over the 1-main circuit from the command religious team aboard the U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) every night at exactly 9:55 p.m.
Evening prayer is a longstanding tradition aboard U.S. Navy ships and, like most traditions, has an unclear beginning. It is thought to date back to the days of the British navy.
"There are many things in the Navy that are tradition-driven," said Lt. j.g. Cole Yoos, the command religious ministries department division officer. "The Navy upholds tradition very highly and the evening prayer held aboard vessels is just one of many programs engrained into the structure of the Navy."
Sailors are trained from boot camp to understand the nature of ceremonial elements such as prayer, as well as hundreds of other naval traditions. Navy instructin charges commanding officers with ensuring a command religious program is available to accommodate Sailors' religious needs, preferences and rights.
Navy chaplains are looked upon as an important resource to deliver and support training on matters impacting command personnel including, but not limited to: adjustment to military life, combat and operational stress control issues, suicide awareness and prevention, sexual assault prevention and response, substance abuse prevention, domestic violence and prevention, and deployment-related issues.
"Religious ministries in the Navy attend to moral aspects of life," said Yoos. "During evening prayer we talk about anger, forgiveness, working together in tight quarters, stress and other topics that will enhance the crew's resiliency."
Chaplains are qualified to deliver counseling and coaching to better tend to Sailors who are in need of personal and relational encouragement outside of a faith-group specific setting.
"We try to offer prayers that are very inclusive to the entire crew and very pertinent to daily situations, such as deployment-related issues," said Yoos.
The chaplain's role is an important function of the Navy that mirrors chaplains who are appointed to work with parliamentary bodies, such as the chaplain of the United States Senate and the chaplain of the House of Representatives. In addition to opening proceedings with prayer, these chaplains provide pastoral counseling to congressional members, their staffs, and their families.
"In our very [own] government we have this tradition," said Yoos. "There is not any, one, type of faith group represented in these bodies, just like on our ship. Evening prayer is just another tool that the commanding officer has at his disposal to enhance and strengthen the moral and well being of the crew aboard George Washington."
At exactly 10 p.m. and after the chaplain says "Amen," the petty officer of the watch sounds off, "Taps, Taps. Lights out. All hands turn into your racks. Maintain silence about the decks. Taps." Ship lights turn red as another day filled with the rhythm of naval traditions draws to a close.
George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interest of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
For more news from USS George Washington (CVN 73), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn73/.